April 13, 2017 Terry Lynn Campbell

How to be a Better Interviewee

At Company Man Studios, we produce a lot of interviews. Whether it’s for a corporate brand video, a testimonial for a service or product, or just someone addressing a large group of people, we end up listening to—and editing—a wide variety of messages. The number one response we get from interviewees is “I hate the sound of my own voice!” Most people do (unless your last name is “Kardashian”), and there is scientific evidence as to why. The fact is, unless you’re on-camera often like an actor or reality TV star, you’re just not accustomed to hearing yourself speak from an outsider’s perspective. And, what makes the situation even worse, when people know they’ll be hearing or watching themselves on camera they often can’t focus on what they are actually saying—which is very inconvenient if you need to say something important.

Forget how you sound in your interview.

First things first: Don’t fixate on how you sound! If you were asked to be interviewed, someone thought you had something to say that was smart or important. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have asked you. So instead of focusing on how dumb your voice sounds, focus on the message at hand. (Because, chances are, no one else thinks you sound dumb.) Want to know what will grab peoples’ attention? If you say something unintelligent.

Speak in your normal voice.

Instead of thinking of the situation as being an interview, think of it as having a normal conversation. A good interviewer or producer will conduct the interview in a way that will help you feel more natural. Sometimes, when we get nervous, people have a tendency to change the pitch of their voice. This phenomenon has unfortunately become more popular thanks to reality television. Voice actor Lake Bell describes the issue as “festering…”

Think about what you want to say.

Interviews are typically shot one of two ways. Most corporate videos are shot with the interviewer off-camera feeding the questions to the on-camera “talent.” (That is, unless you’re being interviewed by someone that is on camera, like Barbara Walters.)  Since the interviewer’s voice most likely isn’t being recorded, it’s always best practice to restate the question before answering. For example, when the interviewer asks “How long have you worked here?” instead of saying “3 years,” you would reply “I have worked at [company] for 3 years.” Repeating the question also buys your brain some time to formulate a response. Hopefully, you’ll already have an idea of what messaging you would like to convey in your interview. Beforehand, try to organize your thoughts so you stay on that message. Using oral bullet points will also help eliminate the “thinking noises,” such as “ummm” and “aaaaaahhhh.”

Every month, Company Man Studios hosts the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Executive Files, where we record interviews between the TBBJ Editor Alexis Muellner and local business executives. These profiles range in level of experience, and it’s a great opportunity to see the different styles of interviews done. The Business Journal also has some helpful interview tips here, which can be applied to public speaking in general, too.

Remember, don’t overthink it. Be confident and believe in what you want to say.

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